2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: inclusive+, University of Chicago (Booth)

inclusive+

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Industry: Healthcare

Founding Student Name(s): Lori Ebenstein & Anna Jacobs

Brief Description of Solution: inclusive+ improves health equity for LGBTQ+ patients through clinician education, and increased patient access to care. We are a B2B2C platform that enables health systems and medical organizations to upskill their clinicians to be more culturally and medically competent in LGBTQ+ care. This solves the reality that only 4.4% of providers strongly agree they have adequate training in the needs of the community. Once clinicians are trained, they have the option to be featured on our directory, making it easier for the LGBTQ+ community to find them and get needed care that is often otherwise postponed.

Funding Dollars:  Pre-seed

What led you to launch this venture? I started Booth determined to improve healthcare for underserved populations. I didn’t feel comfortable speaking honestly to my doctor and had experienced judgment and misdiagnoses. If it was so hard for me to navigate the healthcare system, how much harder must it be for people from more marginalized communities?  During business school, I met my co-founders, Anna and Monika. As a clinical pharmacist, Monika saw first-hand the barriers that transwomen faced in accessing gender-affirming care, with insurance companies routinely denying coverage for needed medication. Anna, an MD candidate, saw first-hand how medical education does not properly train providers in LGBTQIA+ health needs. As members of the community and healthcare professionals, my co-founders and I created inclusive+ to elevate the standard of care for LGBTQ+ patients to improve care outcomes and dispel the distrust that marginalized groups have towards our healthcare system.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with the venture? Our most significant accomplishment has been securing a paid pilot with Mindful Care, an urgent mental healthcare company. Given the need for fast and accessible mental health care services for the LGBTQ+ community, we were happy to see that mental health care professionals and clinic leaders also see the need for increased clinician training and visibility to the community.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in producing your company, and how did you solve it? Our most significant challenge is the lack of general knowledge about LGBTQIA+ healthcare and the size of the queer population within the United States. We now start our pitches and demos with facts regarding population size (1 in 5 Gen-Z adults identifying within the LGBTQ+ community) and defining what providing medically and culturally competent care means. Our educational platform improves care for the whole patient lifecycle, from proper preventative care screenings to improved cardiovascular and mental health outcomes to specific gender-affirming care.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The Booth MBA program has played a pivotal role in driving both our startup’s growth and my entrepreneurial journey. Before even starting Booth, my internship through the Startup Summer program provided valuable insights into the startup world. During my first-year summer, Booth’s supplemental funding allowed me to take on a product manager role at another startup. These experiences in other startups proved invaluable in launching and scaling our own venture. At Booth, inclusive+ was able to actively participate in various entrepreneurial programs, including iCorp, the New Venture Challenge, the Launch Accelerator, and the Polsky Founders Fellowship. These experiences provided us not only with funding, but also allowed us to refine our business ideas, speak to relevant people within the space, finalize our business model, begin creating our product, and secure our pilot partnerships.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? I have been inspired by Sara Blakely since researching her journey for an entrepreneurship class in college. She started Spanx with just $5,000 of her savings when she didn’t have anything to wear under a pair of light-colored pants and cut off the feet of a pair of pantyhose. Her scrappy and can-do attitude continued to inspire me, highlighting that determination and a resourceful approach can lead to entrepreneurial success. Furthermore, she’s continued to give back and works to empower women.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Building the New Venture with Lindsey Lyman was one of the most valuable courses in shaping my entrepreneurial journey. The course centered around developing a startup and hypothetically following its journey for 18 months. Each assignment involved a different focus – marketing, product development, fundraising, etc. — and you would develop a hypothetical narrative for what happened during the time period. It made me realize the level of detail that went into a startup, as you could not just say you’d raised x amount of money from friends and family or hired a salesperson. Rather, you had to go into the tactical details of how you would do that. The course, despite its hypothetical nature, equipped me with practical skills essential for the real-world challenges of building a startup.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Mark Tebbe made a significant contribution to our plans due to his unwavering support and willingness to help us throughout our startup journey. He went above and beyond, offering his time to discuss strategy, helping us refine our pitch, and facilitating valuable connections, which have been instrumental in our success.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Chicago is probably not one of the first cities to come to mind when you think of a startup hub. However, Chicago has a mighty, vibrant, and growing startup ecosystem. Through our membership in World Business Chicago and MATTER, we have participated in showcases, pitches, and conferences and have received helpful connections and guidance along the way.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term goal is to demonstrate that we improve health equity for LGBTQ+ patients and partner with health insurance companies.

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